Gary Rempel – the Pick-Up Man

In the rodeo arena, this pickup man is known as a cowboy’s cowboy. Behind all the glitz of his career, Rempel has an instinctive understanding of livestock, backed by an extreme knack for showmanship. If you can handle the pressure of the rodeo arena, Rempel says the payoff to his job doesn’t necessarily fill his wallet, but most certainly has its other rewards. Here’s his thoughts on life on the road, success in small but sure doses and staying ahead of the game. 

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I was born and raised on the Matador Ranch, which was one of the largest government owned community pastures in Canada. My dad managed that, he also rodeoed, roped caves and picked up. I roped caves and team roped for awhile, but being a pickup man always appealed to me. Right now I just like doing what I am doing, and am trying to do the best that I can all the time.

In the pickup world, Wayne Vold was who I learned from. He was probably the best there was at the time. I worked with Wayne in Calgary for 10 years. I learned a lot from him, he was a master. His style was smooth – really smooth. When he did things he did them very efficiently and professionally. I just wanted to be in that style too.

When a horse bucks, a pickup man can help a rider in a pattern – we call that turning them back. We keep them in a pattern, so they buck better. Winston Bruce at the Calgary Stampede helped me a lot to understanding bucking horses.

For the past 20 some years we have been putting on a bronc riding school, and I put a pickup school in conjunction with it. We started out in Wood Mountain, Saskatchewan and just moved it to Millarville, Alberta, this last year. I turn guys away as a rule. I just keep it to a limited amount (three or four), so I can handle it better.

The biggest thing with being a pickup man is understanding livestock. You can learn it, but a lot of times it’s a instinct – it’s something you have in you. It all falls down to knowing what that animal is going to do and then reacting to it.

As far as picking up goes – I think it has been refined over the past 30 or so years. Years ago people just thought a pickup man was some guy that got on a big horse and rode it around an arena. As years went on, those ideas have changed. Picking up has now become more of a spectacle thing, almost like bull fighting. You make it almost an art and you keep trying to better yourself.

I travel with six horses. I want my horses to be able to handle the stock. In the bronc riding especially you really need a big stout horse that can handle a bucking horse being dallied up to them. I try to ride really nice horses and have them as broke as possible.

I make it very clear to guys who ask me about being a pickup man – this is not a glamorous job. You are expected to do a lot and you get very little praise for doing it. We don’t get paid a whole lot compared to the bull fighters, announcers or clowns. You are sure not going to get rich at it and you have to think about the expenses you have to put out before you even get started. You will need at least three to four horses that are going to work for you. I use five horses a day, per performance.

I put a lot of pressure on myself, because I want to do the very best I can. But no matter how hard you try you are working with animals, things don’t always go as smooth as you like. Pressure comes from everyone watching the rodeo, and they seem to dwell on the screw-ups. You have to try not to think about it. You go to Vegas and the day before it starts you get a nervous stomach. But once they have bucked the first horse you forget about it and you just do your job.

Sometimes you can be a good pickup man individually, but some don’t know how to work with a partner. Working with my brother Wade, that is as good as it gets. We both know where we both are, throughout the performance. You get picking up with someone who is not paying attention and you are going to get in a wreck in a real hurry.

The arena is basically yours all throughout the rodeo. But keep your ego in check. I’ve always said, if you get to thinking that you are pretty special, something will happen in that arena that will set you back and ground you in a big hurry. It’s a humbling thing when things happen in the arena.

There have been times when I have thought that I’ve had enough, but right now I love picking up and going to rodeos. What I don’t like is the traveling as I’m always a long way from home. I started when I was about 25. The only thing I wish I would have started sooner, so I could have done this longer. I am not thinking about quitting, but sooner or later your body can only handle so much.

I think the biggest payoff of this job is having the respect of your contestants and the contractors. Starting out is not easy and it is a hard deal to get into. It is hard for a young guy to start, as you will need someone who is willing to hire you. It’s easy to blow $100,000 in a heartbeat – on your truck, trailer and horses. But it is a good job and you can have fun, once you get established.

Day Six High and Wild Adventure

BY KELSEY SIMPSON

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As the week is coming to a close it is hard to remember everything that went on here on the High & Wild Adventure. From the moment we stepped foot on the ground at the lodge we have continually been picking up facets of information throughout our day. It didn’t matter if we were in the corral, working with horses, or eating breakfast, there was always more information to absorb.

Today a handful of us went on a longer trail ride with Glenn through another mountain range even making it to the top of one. With a long ride and steep hills to climb on foot it presented quite the challenge. But we finally made it to the top of the ridge just in time for lunch. We tied our horses near an old dilapidated corral and settled in to enjoy our packed lunches.

After lunch we continued to head along the top of the ridge. The sun was hot with little breeze but we felt relief when we wandered down the mountain through the shady moss covered forest.

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Climbing over and under felled trees and avoiding hole, it was a wonder there were so many game trails and horse trails. We eventually made it out of the tree and into a clearing with muskeg and a bunch of windfall trees. Thinking about Glenn’s advice the first day about walking through different vegetation, I carefully tried to leap from clump of moss to clump of moss. Unfortunately some were deceiving large and just sank under my pressure, drenching my shoes and socks and painting them with a coat of black mud.

Eventually we crossed through wet marsh land to get to the other side of the valley to head home. The horses obviously knew that we were headed home and were eager get there.

We saw an incredible amount of elk along with very unique landscapes from minimal trees, to complete forest, to marsh land, and then open pasture. It was truly a beautiful and long ride.

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With the week finishing up and some of us headed home tomorrow, the impact of the trip hit us. Glenn’s goal was to take us on adventures and experiences in a safe and fun way that we would or could never do on our own which he certainly accomplished. If you told everyone what we would do at the beginning of the week, they would say I would never do that or could never. This trip has been an all around expanding of our skills, knowledge and experiences not only in terms of our horsemanship but also in our entire lives. I think we have accomplished more here in a week then most will experience in a lifetime.

Whether we wanted to or not, we all found ourselves outside of our comfort zone doing things we could have never before thought we could do. It instills quite the confidence in you to realize that. Most of us will go home and tell our friends and loved ones about this special place here and the special people, and of course the horses, but it is quite hard to put it all into words. Our High and Wild Adventure here was certainly that but again so much more, more than we could have ever thought. People who were afraid of the horses at the beginning of the week, found themselves getting acquainted and eased around them. They found themselves riding wild horses and along some of the most beautiful and difficult trails of their lives.

Glenn said right off that bat that this wasn’t going to be a dude ranch, this is a holiday learning adventure. You get from it what you put in, this isn’t a fake ride, this was “real life” as one participant said. Every day and every moment leading up to riding helped to prepare the horses and more importantly us without us evening knowing it.

This place, this trip and the people we have met along the way will be an experience we will carry with us forever. The stories and great times will surely be told over and over again, with our friend not quite sure what we are talking about. This week of good times and great people and awesome horses is what High and Wild Adventures is all about and I believe it has lived up to its name.

 

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Find out more about Glenn Stewart at his website and his Facebook page. Also check out his educational video on his Youtube Channel.

Hansen Back on Track

Pickup man taking a breather at the Airdrie Pro Rodeo

Pickup man taking a breather at the Airdrie Pro Rodeo. Photo by Kelsey Simpson

Jordan Hansen was the youngest bullrider to qualify for the Canadian Finals Rodeo last season. Now in his third season on the Pro Rodeo Canada trail, the Okotoks, AB, cowboy is still just 20-years-old, but in the last eight months his goal has definitely changed.

“I don’t want to just qualify (for the CFR),” says Hansen of his expectations in 2014. “I want to go win it.”

After a pair of victories this past weekend in Taber, AB, and Benalto, AB, Hansen is at least back in the hunt for a second straight CFR appearance. The $2,031 he won will unofficially move him to 13th in the new CPRA standings ahead of the injured, Ty Patten of Buck Lake, AB, and just behind 2011 world champion, Shane Proctor, who isn’t likely to enter the required 15 rodeos this season to allow him to compete at the CFR as a non-Canadian.

“My season started really good. I was in the top ten until Hand Hills and then I hit a slump,” explains Hansen. “I watched some videos and saw I wasn’t focused and kept looking at the ground. But I finally pulled my head out of my butt in the last month and I’m focused on staying focused.”

In fact, since June 1st, Hansen hadn’t won a dime until rolling into Benalto on July 5th and posting an 87-point ride on a Bar-C5 bull called Sugar Bear.

“Tanner Girletz had him in Maple Creek (last year) and he was good. He bucks a lot like (Big Stone Rodeo’s) Pop Evil.”

Rookie bareback rider, Cole Goodine of Carbon, AB, has now won cheques at five of his last six rodeos. Goodine went to the pay window at all three weekend stops in Taber, Benalto and Coronation, AB. The cheques totaled $1,246 compared with the $9,550 the semi-pro superstar won in Ponoka, AB, and Airdrie, AB, the weekend before.

Stettler, AB, roper, Riley Warren also collected three cheques. The 24-year-old split 1st in Benalto and split 2nd in Taber in the tie-down roping and grabbed a 3rd place cheque in the team roping in Taber for a $2,856 weekend.

A pair of CPRA cowboys competing at the Calgary Stampede took time out to cash in at the smaller pro rodeo stops. Donalda, AB, steer wrestler, Curtis Cassidy, who competed in the tie-down roping in Calgary on Saturday afternoon and then made the three hour trip to Taber, won the top money there ($1,249) with a 4.0-second run while Pincher Creek, AB, bronc rider, Dustin Flundra was 83.5-points on Frank Wyzykoski’s Ink Spot in Benalto to take home the first place cheque worth $1,147.

Other top winners from the weekend included steer wrestler, Scott Guenthner ($1,656); saddle bronc rider, Jim Berry ($1,253); team ropers, Kolton Schmidt and Rocky Dallyn ($1,201 each); barrel racer, Kerilee Noval ($1,250) and novice saddle bronc rider, Keenan Reinhardt ($749).

Next on the CPRA schedule are the Teepee Creek Stampede (July 11-13) and the Peace River Pro Rodeo (July 12-13).